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HIV Home Carefor aChild

What is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS, which is advanced HIV disease. HIV infection may lead to the body's immune system not fighting off infections as well as it should. A child with HIV needs more care to remain healthy.

How can you keep your child with HIV healthy?

Many medicines are available now to suppress or control HIV. These medicines do not cure the HIV infection, but they can keep the virus under control and undetectable for decades. One of the best ways to keep your child healthy is to make sure your child uses these medicines as directed by your child's healthcare provider. 

Other helpful ideas include those you would use for any other child, such as proper hand-washing techniques. Clean hands help keep your child from catching colds and from developing other illnesses. Teach your child to wash their hands thoroughly at an early age.

Keeping healthy habits can prevent illness. Additional ways you can help your child stay healthy include the following:

Nutrition

Help your child eat nutritious foods. This will help give your child the energy and immune system support needed to stay healthy:

  • Give your child 3 balanced meals a day and healthy snacks. If you have questions about choosing healthy foods for your child, ask your child's healthcare provider or a dietitian.

  • A dietitian can also help if your child has special feeding or eating problems, such as mouth sores, that make eating painful.

  • It's a good idea to be aware of any potential food interactions with your child's medicines.

Skin care

When your child has a cut or sore, the skin is open to germs and can become infected. Taking good care of your child's skin helps prevent infections and may help to keep your child healthy. Consider the following when caring for your child's skin:

  • Prevent injuries, such as cuts and scrapes. If minor injuries happen, clean them and apply antibiotic ointment. Cover them lightly with a bandage to keep them from getting infected. Wear gloves to prevent contact with your child's blood while tending to the wound.

  • Keep the skin clean by washing daily with mild soap and water. 

  • Keep dry areas of skin healthy by applying a moisturizing cream daily.

  • Talk with your child's healthcare provider right away if you notice a rash or unusual sore or cut, or if a cut is not healing normally. A diaper rash or white patches in your child's mouth may need additional treatment.

  • Talk with your child's healthcare team if you have any special questions or concerns about your child's skin care.

  • Apply sunscreen and insect repellent on your child whenever theyplay outside with uncovered skin.

Rest and relaxation

Being tired and stressed can make your child more likely to become sick. Consider the following to make sure your child is getting needed rest and relaxation:

  • Normal play is important for your child.

  • Plan rest periods and have a regular bedtime for your child.

  • Make sure your child gets at least 8 or more hours of sleep each night.

  • If your child seems worried or upset, talk with a counselor, social worker, or a chaplain.

  • If you have special questions about your child's rest and sleep needs, talk with your child's healthcare team.

  • Use caution when allowing your child to have pets, or contact with other people's pets. Children should never be left with animals without supervision. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about any pets you have now, or before bringing home any new pets.

Medicines

Consider the following to ensure your child's medicine needs are being met:

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Pill reminder boxes can be very useful.

  • Understand how much of each medicine you should give your child. Don't be afraid to ask questions if this is confusing.

  • Plan ahead for when you need refills. Don't run out of medicines. Forgetting or skipping doses of medicine can allow the virus to become resistant to your child's medicines. 

  • Talk with your child's healthcare provider regarding the recommended routine vaccines for your child, as well as for other family and household members.

  • If you have questions or problems with your child taking a medicine, talk with your child's healthcare team.

  • Check with your child's healthcare provider before your child takes any new medicines or stops others.

How can you prevent the spread of HIV?

HIV may be spread from person-to-person when there is contact with infected blood or body fluids (rectal fluid, breastmilk, semen, and vaginal fluid). The riskdecreases to a very low level if the person with HIV is taking their HIV medicines and has an undetectable HIV viral load for at least the last 6 months.

  • HIV can be spread:

    • Through sex with a person who carries HIV

    • By sharing drug needles

    • To babies born to mothers who carry HIV

    • To babies breastfed by an HIV-infected mother

    • To people who receive unscreened blood or blood products that contain HIV

    • When an uninfected person having an open wound (mucous membrane, damaged tissue) or scratch comes into contact with the blood or body fluids (rectal fluid, vaginal fluid, breastmilk, semen) of an infected person 

  • HIV can't be spread by:

    • Hugging a person with HIV

    • Swimming in public pools or hot tubs

    • Sharing a drinking glass

    • Sharing toilets

    • Going to school

    • Having contact with saliva, urine, or tears unless these fluids are visibly bloody

How do you care for a child with HIV?

You should use universal precautions for any contact with blood, whether your child is known to be HIV-infected or not. These precautions include the following:

  • Wear latex or vinyl gloves when you need to touch the HIV-infected person's blood and body fluids.

  • Clean up blood and body fluid spills with a mixture of bleach and water. Mix 1/4 cup of bleach with 2 cups of water.

  • Wash clothes soiled with blood and body fluids with soapy water. Bleach or nonchlorine bleach may be used to help get stains out. Items that cannot be washed should be put in a plastic bag and thrown away.

  • Don't share razors or toothbrushes with an HIV-infected person.

If your child has HIV, you can help prevent the spread of HIV by teaching your child some basic rules, such as how to manage a nosebleed or cut:

  • Instruct your child to carry a clean handkerchief.

  • Cover the cut tightly with the handkerchief. 

  • Don't allow anyone to touch the blood with bare hands. 

When should my child see a healthcare provider?

Keeping your child's healthcare appointments is very important. You will also need to know when to bring your child in for care when your child is getting sick. Your child should see a healthcare provider if they:

  • Have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your child's healthcare provider

  • Have shortness of breath or a cough

  • Have a change in bowel movements

  • Have a skin rash including diaper rash, sores on the skin or in the mouth, or white patches in the mouth

  • Have behavioral changes

  • Bleed or bruise for unknown reasons

  • Have severe pain

  • Have ear pain or fluid drainage from the ear

  • Have been in contact with someone who has a contagious illness (especially chickenpox)

Talk with your child's healthcare provider for more information.

Online Medical Reviewer: Barry Zingman MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2022
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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